Miracles do happen and the news I am about to share with you is a testament to that. In 1921, Camille Legrand, a cameraman for Pathe Freres, directed a five-reel Indian silent film called 'Behula'. Pathe Freres was the world’s largest production and film equipment company in the 1900s. The company was represented in India by producer Jamshedji Framji Madan. In the year 1921, Madan and Legrand joined hands and produced film films, including Behula. The story of Behula is adapted from Bengali folklore Mansa Mangal. Legrand returned the negatives of the film to France and it was recently discovered that the negatives survived over a century, in a moment of serendipity for all cinephiles.
The negatives of the film were restored by Fondation Jerôme Seydoux-Pathé, an organization founded to preserve, reinstate and promote Pathe’s rich historical and cultural heritage.
Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, FIlm Archivist and Director of Film Heritage Foundation
Even if you are not a big fan of silent movies, you will love Behula because of its stellar actress, Patience Cooper. She is India’s first Anglo-Indian actress and a treasured gem of early Bollywood. Cooper was born in 1905 in Kolkata, to a family with Jewish-Iraqi ancestry. She had two sisters. Cooper began her career as a stage dancer but over the years she featured in over 40 films and her career spanned until 1944. She was also the first Indian actress to feature in a double role — as two sisters in Patni Pratap(1923) and as mother and daughter in Kasmiri Sundari(1924). Patience Cooper belonged to the elite generation of Indian actresses whose European looks and education brought them huge popularity. Unfortunately, in spite of Cooper’s broad oeuvre, Behula is her only film that survived.
Prakash Magdum, former director of National Film Archive of India(NFAI)
Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s Film Heritage Foundation will organize the screening of the restored version of Behula on December 5, 2022, in Mumbai’s Regal Cinema. Be sure not to miss it!